Feds tell railroads: Review speed rules, training

Updated at: 12/11/2013 4:35 PM

An NTSB investigator carries a data recorder retrieved from the derailed Metro-North train in the Bronx.
An NTSB investigator carries a data recorder retrieved from the derailed Metro-North train in the Bronx.
Photo: AP

(AP) NEW YORK - Railroads all over the country have lessons to learn about speed limits and the importance of communication between crew members after the deadly derailment of a commuter train this month, federal regulators said Wednesday.

The Federal Railroad Administration issued an industry-wide safety advisory, telling railroads to immediately brief employees on the circumstances of the Dec. 1 Metro-North Railroad derailment in the Bronx and train them on the importance of speed limits.

The training should discuss "absolute speed limits, speed restrictions based on physical characteristics, temporary speed restrictions and any other restrictions commonly encountered," the advisory said.

The National Transportation Safety Board found that the Metro-North train was racing at 82 mph as it entered a 30 mph curve and derailed.

"The Metro-North crash illustrates how important it is for railroads to follow speed limits," U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.

Federal Railway Administrator Joseph Szabo said U.S. train accidents are down 43 percent over a decade, "but we must always do better."

The directive also said railroads should perform operational tests on trains that are required to reduce speed by more than 20 mph. It suggested using black-box data and radar to verify compliance with speed limits.

The FRA also encouraged rail lines to reinforce the importance of communication between crew members, during both busy times and "extended periods of inactivity."

Representatives of the engineer on the Metro-North train have said he experienced a "daze" and nodded at the controls just before the wreck, possibly due to what’s sometimes called highway hypnosis.

Last week, the FRA ordered Metro-North to identify places in its system with major speed changes, put an extra worker in the engineer’s cab on some routes and overhaul its signal system.

The agency, which operates trains in New York and Connecticut, said its inspections over the next several months would focus on compliance with speed limits.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)